Copyright 2006 Tracey Anderson
Mortgage rates and fees vary from lender to lender, and it’s not always easy to compare all the details to find the best deal. Mortgage brokers help consumers sort through all those details and find the best mortgage solution possible, often through resources and connections that an ordinary consumer does not have access to. Using a broker can save both time and money. The broker is very familiar with the industry, and can be a valuable asset to a home buyer looking for a good deal on a mortgage. In addition to having substantial connections, the broker will have good insight into the process and how best to qualify. The broker will often have close connections with lenders, who view a good broker as a valuable customer and will sometimes make special rates or discounts available to brokers that are not available to the general public because of this leverage.
Because mortgage brokers make the process simpler for their customers, many loans in Australia are initiated by brokers. There are many reputable brokers in every state. Choose one with a good reputation and that is in good standing with the Mortgage Industry Association of Australia (http://www.miaa.com.au), a self-regulating body that imposes a set of ethical best practices on all of its members.
Look for an independent and unbiased broker. Of course, one expects a broker to receive a commission for their services, but some brokers attempt to sell mortgages with high fees that are not in the consumer’s best interest, in order to receive higher commissions. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (http://www.asic.gov.au) has cracked down on brokers that advertise that they are impartial when they are not. The ASIC recommends that if a consumer plans to use the services of a broker, to first look around to get an idea of existing rates, to be informed enough to know if they are receiving a good deal.
In the past, there has been some reluctance to use mortgage broking services because of the lack of regulation. Financial services of all types tend to be heavily regulated, and for good reason. Consumers must be protected against unscrupulous and predatory operators. And make no mistake, there are predatory mortgage brokers, just as there are predatory members of every segment of the financial community. Nonetheless, most are honest and provide a useful service. And more recently, there has been significant attention on the mortgage broking industry, and Australia is in the midst of a regulatory overhaul designed to keep mortgage brokers on an even keel.
Presently, the mortgage broking industry is regulated by individual states. Check with your local government regulatory agency to determine qualifications, and check on your broker’s status. In a report to ASIC, The Consumer Credit Legal Centre (http://www.asic.gov.au/asic/pdflib.nsf/LookupByFileName/finance_mortgagebrokers_report.pdf/$file/finance_mortgagebrokers_report.pdf) highlighted some of the differences between states. NSW, Victoria, ACT and Western Australia have more specific broker legislation, but not all states have a licensing scheme for brokers. National regulation would impose stricter regulations throughout the country, to ensure that consumers are protected. In the current regulatory environment, brokers are even more aware of their need to operate above-board and honestly.